Important reading…

smash it janet!

9 responses to “Important reading…

  1. Interesting interview with Dr Jonathan Clark. Indeed ‘fixing’ the ‘ills’ of our current education system is complex. Addressing teacher competencies also assumes schools, both state and private, actually value teachers with higher qualifications (a far cry from reality). At the same time, low matric pass rates in certian subjects have nothing to do with the actual teacher but more to do with the codification of the subject content (leading to poor frames of reference for learners), and schools with no subject teachers (another can of worms for deep rural schools). Incidentally, it is ‘rumoured’ that Cuba shut its entire school system to retrain teachers to ensure high quality teaching and learning can take place. Have you read the McKinsey report – What makes an educational system quality or something like that? Hugely influential in highlighting what we need to work towards in RSA. Interestingly, a lot of focus on poor education, unequal outcomes etc etc tends to be attributed to what happens within the scholing system. Bernstein (education as a pedagogic discourse) highlights why most systems, like RSA, have distributional and social inequality and how it may stem to what happens before school.

  2. Thanks for your comments Tracey. You raise some interesting points. The arguments you raise (based on Bernstein’s theory of socio-linguistics) are obviously relevant in South Africa, however I think that there are likely to be a number of problems in super-imposing theories which were developed to explain the differences between two classes (working class and middle class) in England onto the South African situation. Given the different language, cultural and ethnic realities in South Africa, we need to think about which parts of Bernstein’s theories work well and which need modification or adaptation. Much of what you are saying also points to the importance of preschool education.

    Thanks for your comments!


  3. Yes, you are right in cautioning the use of theory in ‘different’ geographic areas. A large part of educational theory today does have serious shortcomings with regards to the RSA context for numerous, valid reasons. It is what makes educational research in RSA so exciting, especially educational inequality. However, from my experience, Bernstein’s theory of education as a pedagogic discourse is relevant to most educational contexts, especially contexts where there is a large group of individuals who originate from oral cultures. In short, educationalists and linguists like Bernstein, Halliday and Rose are trying to raise awareness that a lot of (but not limited to) the educational inequality we see in countries like RSA stem from a difference in access to categories of consciousness. Berstein makes use of the terms restricted and elaborated codes of knowledge; whereas, Halliday simplifies it into spoken and written codes of consciousness. Learners from oral cultures start school with a distinct disadvantage to their peers who may come from middle class families, as students from middle class families have access to both spoken and written codes. Unfortunately, the flawed sequencing and pacing of our current literacy development curriculum at school in RSA causes learners from oral cultures to fall further and further behind – Matthews effect.

    I think what Berstein is referring to is not necessarily pre-school, although that would be a distinct advantage to most students. However, is this really a reality in RSA? It is the orientation to written texts and certain types of conversations that Berstein says allows students to start school on track with the curriculum. Middle class students normally have access to approximately 1000 hours of story reading time with their parents. They learn how to enage with texts, how to hold a book, turn a page, and more importantly, answer certain types of questions posed by their parents. The school currculum assumes that this has been developed…….

    Keep up the good research. I have been reading some of your articles and your masters thesis. Very interesting work. If you are open to constructive criticism (only to delve deeper into the origin of our current educational crisis), I have a few comments regarding some of your findings.

    God bless

    ps) Thank you for making your work available for public reading 🙂

  4. Thanks for your comments Tracey. I agree that there is much to be gleaned from Bernstein & Co with respect to orientations to meaning and the class advantage provided to middle-class children. Why I mention preschool is that I think this is one of the areas that is actually available to policy-makers. One where we can ensure that all children are being “primed” for success at school, not only the middle-class kids (and in SA we mean elite, not middle-class) see here ( This is one of the reasons that the Scandinavian countries place such an emphasis on preschool education – i.e. while it is notoriously difficult to intervene in the home context, standardising the quality of preschool education is actually possible.

    RE constructive criticism I’m always open (and grateful for) constructive criticism so mail away…

    Kind regards,


  5. My humble apologies. I have to keep reminding myself that your research (correct me if I am wrong) is more policy related and boy do we need people like you? We both seem to be researching educational inequality but my comments stem from an interest in the policy/practice gap so my comments may sometimes come across as ‘unhelpful’ to policy developers 🙂

  6. Gwynne Foster

    This is addressed to both Tracey and Nic
    There is a huge gap in our agricultural training programmes that relates to record keeping and compliance with a host of food safety, labour and sustainability laws and standards. We have shifted a lot of information gathering to farm level, and are simply expecting too much of the farmers.
    I am working with smallholder farmers in Witzenberg area to close this gap. I think we have a reasonable idea of what to do and how to go about it, and there are numerous jobs that can created within rural communities.
    Would debating this sort of problem and approaches to solutions be of interest to you?
    Let me know – I can send background info if I have an email address (haven’t looked).
    Best regards,
    Gwynne Foster

    • Hi Gwynne

      I wouldn’t be the right person to debate this. As far as I can pick up, this is a very specific issue within FET (?) training in the agricultural sector. I would certainly agree that our FET system needs an overhaul before it starts doing the job its meant to, but I think the complexities of the FET system are somewhat different to the basic education sector.



  7. Hi Gwynne

    Your work sounds very interesting and complex. I suppose that is the joy of researching education related matters in South Africa. My research is related to the mismatch in skills being developed at school (the FET stage of schooling) versus the skills required to succeed at University, particularly the academic reading and writing skills of undergrad students. With this is mind, I am not sure I am able to offer any insights as my expertise, or lack thereof ha ha, is linked to literacy development? You are more than welcome to send info incase I can help, or I can put other researchers in touch with you. (

    Warm regards

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s